NASHVILLE — The Giants are still looking for an upgrade in left field, and the best available options are middle-of-the-order types. That wouldn’t bother manager Bruce Bochy, and on Tuesday he reiterated that he’s set at the top of the lineup, even with Nori Aoki now a Mariner.
Asked about Angel Pagan, Bochy said, “Right now, he’s our leadoff hitter.” Pagan had just 58 starts in the leadoff spot last year and the majority of his at-bats came elsewhere.
“He had to deal with some injuries but I liked what he did the last month,” Bochy said during his media session at the Winter Meetings. “He healed up, he was a different player, I thought he was running well and covering ground like he did before the injuries. The plan is to lead him off."
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Pagan hit .274 with a .346 on-base percentage over the final month of the season, showing much of the form that disappeared as he dealt with knee injuries. He had soreness in both knees during the summer and tendinitis in his right patella led to a DL trip in August and a platelet-rich plasma injection. When Pagan returned, he looked quicker and more dynamic, and the Giants are hoping that’s the player they see in 2016.
Pagan played just 133 games last season but it was still his second-highest total in four years as a Giant. The first two years of a four-year deal he signed after the 2012 season were marred by injuries, but the Giants are confident that they’ll see increased glimpses of the center fielder they had in 2012. Pagan hit .288 that year in 154 games and scored 95 runs.
The Giants believe in the power of a contract year, and Pagan, who turns 35 next season, is looking at one last payday as a big leaguer. With the way the market has exploded, a strong season would easily guarantee him a multi-year deal somewhere.
“I know he’s looking at next year as a very big year for us and for him,” Bochy said. “He wants to come into spring training healthy and that’s why he had the cleanup in the knee (after the season). He’s good to go.”
When announcing the minor procedure the day after the season, general manager Bobby Evans said Pagan is a center fielder, and he didn’t see that changing. There has been some hedging from team officials in recent days, and there seems to be an increased sense that an athletic addition in center field could possibly move Pagan to a corner. Pagan takes pride in playing center and surely wouldn’t be thrilled with such a move, especially on the eve of free agency, but Bochy said he thinks Pagan could handle the corner spot.
“If you ask him he’s going to be more comfortable in center field because that’s where he’s been for the most part, but I’m sure he could go over to left field,” Bochy said. “I haven’t addressed that with him yet. I’m saying yet but it’s not like I’m looking to, but I think he’s a good enough athlete that he could go (to left).”